'Trouble all the time.' Hyannis businesses challenge internet speeds promised by Comcast (2024)

Amanda Converse took an internet speed test inside herLove Live Local shop on South Street in downtown Hyannis on June 26.

The test showed 94.6 Mbps, or megabits per second, downloading. Upload speeds were 40.8 Mbps in her test, as provided by internet service provider Comcast Xfinity.

The download speed was substantially lower than the speed advertised on her bill.

On the bill viewed by a Times reporter, Converse's Business Internet Advanced plan promises 500 Mbps downloading and 30 Mbps uploading. The monthly charge is $209.95.

“We have trouble all the time with our internet,” Converse said. “We’re consistently kicked off our Wi-Fi when trying to run transactions. Sometimes it's questionable if we can run credit cards. I’m consistently dropped from Zoom calls.”

Converse joined OpenCape CEO and Executive Director Steven Johnston and Cape Cod Technology Council Executive Director Stephen Smith to launch the Fix Cape Internet initiative. It is an effort to prove thatCape Cod has a connectivity crisis, and internet users are underserved by Comcast, the primary internet provider on the Cape.

The crisis is brought on by lack of competition with internet service providers, lack of infrastructure investment by Comcast and a need for better speed test reporting from users, the Fix Cape Internet organizers said.

'Trouble all the time.' Hyannis businesses challenge internet speeds promised by Comcast (1)

The organizers want as many internet customersas possible to take speed tests on their computers and laptops before July 20. The test results will be sent to the Massachusetts Broadband Institute in the hope that federal Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) money will be directed to Cape Cod to address what the organizers consider to be an underserved community.

The institute is soliciting self-reported speed tests statewide through July 20 and has $147 million in BEAD money to expand broadband access across the state. Locations that are unserved (below a 25/3 Mbps threshold) and underserved (below a 100/20 Mbps threshold) will receive priority. Residents, local and tribal governments, nonprofits and community institutions are urged to participate.

The institute will provide technical support and training, and post information on its website during the challenge, the institute's public relations manager Jake Stern said.

Holding the speed test challenge during the summer when Cape population doubles should take into account any quality-of-service issues, according to Stern.

Comcast Director of Public RelationsMarc Goodman disputed the claim that the Cape is underserved by Comcast Xfinity. Comcast and Xfinity are part of the same company. Comcast is the parent company; Xfinity provides telecommunications services.

Is Cape Cod underserved in summer?

Johnston, with OpenCape, contends that while Massachusetts is one of the most connected states in the country, the Cape tends to be underserved, especially in the summer when the population doubles. Telehealth, public safety, and the ability to work remotely suffer, he said. If enough speed test results identify an underserved census block group, some money might be available for internet service providers to bid on how they could correct it, he said.

OpenCape, a nonprofit, could have an opportunity — along with other internet providers — to bid on projects.

Downtown Hyannis was chosen as a launch site for the "Fix Cape Internet" initiative because the area is underserved and is a low- to moderate-income area, Johnston said. OpenCape is also putting in a fiber optic network in the Main Street area through a Barnstable municipal grant.

Is old equipment the problem?

Goodman, with Comcast, said slow speeds are more likely due toold equipment such as routers and devices, the distance from an access point or router, and how many devices are using the internet at one time.

“Some devices, such as Chromebooks, can only handle so much speed,” Goodman said.

Goodman referenced a Comcast article that linked to an FCC report showing Comcast delivered, on average, 100% of their advertised speeds during peak times, defined as Monday through Friday, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Specifics such as location and time of year where not given. Business hours were not included in the tests.

'Trouble all the time.' Hyannis businesses challenge internet speeds promised by Comcast (2)

Elizabeth Wurfbain, executive director of the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District, said by phone on June 26 that credit card stations can get tied up during summer business hours. Seaside Selections Manager Pam Cherry said that there were times she wasn't able to use the credit card machine in the summer for her Hyannis gift shop.

The speed tests promoted by Fix Cape Internet are unreliable, Goodman added. Numbers ona web-based test more likely show theperformance of the local area network such as printers, laptops, computers and phones, he said. That performance is driven mainly by how far you are from the access point, he said.

Speed tests could be more accurate

Speed tests can be unreliable, said Smith, with the Cape Cod Technology Council.

He said the technology council and OpenCape lobbied the Massachusetts Broadband Institute to provide information and equipment to make the speed tests more accurate. The institute declined to do so, he said.

Stern said the institute will offer support and help to all eligible challengers. The institute has contracted with Connected Nation to offer additional support to organizations and residents and will continue to host office hours, he said.

Smith said the leadership of the institute is a “typical government to lobbying revolving door.”

Is there an internet monopoly on Cape Cod?

All the data the Federal Communications Commission relies on to determine where money goes is "self-reported data by big monopolies,” Johnston said. Comcast has a monopoly on the Cape, he added.

Goodman, in response to the monopoly claim, points to Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile offering 5G fixed wireless access and Starlink service providing satellite service as viable alternatives.

For Hyannis, an FCC broadband map shows Xfinity as the only cable network provider, with satellite services by HughesNet, Starlink and Viasat. Verizon provides business-only service via licensed fixed wireless.

“There are a variety of other internet business players out there, including OpenCape,” Goodman said.

Fixed wireless service isn’t a solution to broadband access to everybody, according to Smith. It requires a clear line of sight to a cell tower and proximity to it, he said. The service is susceptible to interference and reductions in service when there is crowding on the cellular network, he added.

Is investment lacking on Cape Cod by Comcast?

Comcast has the highest prices and poorest service documented by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, Smith said.

“If competition was so good on the Cape, why aren’t they lowering prices? They don’t provide data. They don’t provide information.”

Goodman said Comcast has spent more than $900 million on technology and network upgrades in Massachusetts in the last three years. Goodman did not share how much money the Cape saw, but said some upgrades were made in the Falmouth area.

“Comcast is not doing enough to invest in the infrastructure,” Converse said. “We need competition to improve service.”

Denise Coffey writes about business, tourism and issues impacting the Cape’s residents and visitors. Contact her atdcoffey@capecodonline.com .

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'Trouble all the time.' Hyannis businesses challenge internet speeds promised by Comcast (2024)

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